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Quantity & Quality Protein | Managing Diabetes

When it comes to managing diabetes it’s not hard to come across people who are strong advocates of high-protein diet. They’re everywhere. So when I refer to high-protein, I’m talking about 40 to 50% of your calories coming from quality protein or about 100 to 150 g of protein a day.

I have several reasons why I do not advocate a high-protein approach which is not to say that I don’t necessarily advocate a lot of carbohydrate approach, but stay tuned for a little bit more on that to come.

The first fundamental issue with practicing a high protein diet is it naturally comes at the expense of other nutrients. So these nutrients vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are critical when it comes to managing inflammation and actually preventing the long-term complications which are associated with the disease.

A high-protein diet, can rarely be achieved without eating large quantities of animal proteins which tend to be high in saturated fats. So to contravene the proponents of high saturated fat diet, I’m really not convinced of any merit in increasing saturated fat intentionally, in one’s diet. The link between saturated fat and inflammation cannot be dismissed. And from a blood pathology perspective, I also often see high levels of homocysteine and cardiovascular receptors in high animal protein diet.

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What many people don’t know and have not been told is that an excess of protein in one sitting can actually result in blood sugar levels increasing in diabetics. The frustrating thing about this is, that in most instances, a diabetic would not have actually accounted for this in their insulin to carb ratio, making for a frustrating high sugar morning, post a high-protein dinner the previous night.

The mechanism behind this is again related to Glucagon and it’s a fact that protein rich foods will actually stimulate the release of Glucagon which if you can recall, escalates blood sugar level in part to allow for absorption of amino acids which are proteins in the liver and its subsequent transformation there to glucose, where the liver stores proteins as glucose for when they’re needed.

Studies do actually show that high levels of protein will stimulate a high level of insulin and this can contribute to the issue of excess insulin and decreased insulin sensitivity.

When it comes to protein I definitely recommend including it in your diet, but stick to a palm sized portion meal and if you can focus on plant based protein. Swap out red meat for a quality protein like eggs will help to ensure that your blood sugars are kept under control. Always remember your greens and veggies as well. They’ll have a very marginal impact on your blood sugar levels.

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About Gabriela Rosa MScM, ND

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